During his 32 years on WFMS-FM 95.5, J.D. Cannon earned induction in the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame and three Personality of the Year awards, two from the Country Music Association and one from the Academy of Country Music.
But since April 11, he’s been out of work. He said he was fired for insubordination after Jan Jeffries, Atlanta-based senior vice president of programming for Cumulus, heard WFMS play “Long Black Train” by Josh Turner and “Killin’ Time” by Clint Black—songs that weren’t on the station’s authorized playlist.
Cannon, who was WFMS’ music director and afternoon-drive DJ, said that every Monday Jeffries sends Cumulus stations a list of songs they’re required to play. For the better part of six years, Cannon said, he had been given the autonomy—by Jeffries—to make some changes to the list. So he would add songs by George Strait, Alan Jackson and other artists who had historically tested well with WFMS listeners.
“I really didn’t feel like I was being big-headed or arrogant or trying to take over,” said Cannon, 57, whose real name is Lynn Schellhammer. “I was just doing what I thought was best.”
But Jeffries was in Indianapolis in late March and didn’t like what he heard, Cannon said. Jeffries did not return phone calls seeking comment. Chris Wheat, market manager for Cumulus in Indianapolis, declined to comment.
In January, Cannon had signed a three-year contract with WFMS. He thinks Cumulus fired him to save his salary. And because he was fired for violating his contract, the company denied him severance pay.
Cannon’s contract included a six-month non-compete clause. While he waits for that to expire, he’s doing commercial voice work for Bill Estes, Honda West and the Indiana State Fair.
“And anyone else who needs someone, I’m available,” he said. “At least till Oct. 12.”•
– Marc D. Allan